Switching From XP to Linux – Should You? 04/07/08

A question from John.P in Texas:
…About the poll called “Are you considering a switch from Windows to Linux?” I see that almost 47% of visitors say “Yes” (so did I). I am an XP user and was wondering if you can post a short note for advice about switching to Linux?…

What’s surprising, is when I examine the web stats for the blog, the month of March 2008 showed 41% of visitors used Windows XP! (The first week of April shows 48.8% used XP). Also, for mere interest 88.3% of browsers for the first week of April 2008 are Firefox. And, for March 2008 Firefox comprised 78.5% of visitors. This tells us that visitors are indeed Open Source users and that readers are almost a 50/50 split between Windows and other OS’s (such as Linux). Additionally, it appears from this week’s poll (the one you mentioned above) and earlier polls, that there is genuine interest in your question.

This is a hard question to answer for you in one post. To answer the question, perhaps it’s best to ask yourself this question, “Is it a good idea to switch to Linux?” or “Am I willing to take the time to explore new things and have fun?” If you’ve answered yes, read on… :)

Try the LiveCD first and see if you are able to get used to the newer system. I made my choice very quickly after using it.

Obviously preparation is important. When I switched, the primary concern for me was my data. I needed a way to save all my documents, music and email. The email was an easy fix because I had already migrated to Thunderbird (if I remember correctly, Thunderbird will import all your Outlook express email). I’ve posted a couple times about Thunderbird, and both posts do include information about backing up your email:

Thunderbird Has Lost my eMail in Ubuntu!
Easily Use Cron to Backup Thunderbird eMail in Ubuntu Linux

To ensure you don’t lose other important files, such as documents, browser favourites, etc. You can burn all of them to a DVD, or save them to a file server. Don’t have a file server? If interested, take a peak at this post: 30 Dollars, 30 Minutes, 1 Nice Fileserver. In my case I set up a local (LAN) FTP server and uploaded all my files and the email backup to it.

Side note: If you’re using a Windows server, such as IIS for FTP, the file system will probably be NTFS. Don’t worry, that will not prevent you from accessing the files and copying them back to your Linux based PC. When you copy them back, the ownership (permissions) of the file will reflect to the account that you logged into your Linux session with.

Obviously, I needed a copy of Linux, and in this case chose Ubuntu Linux: Get Ubuntu. I might add that there are several flavours of Linux as well as several flavours of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. You may want to consider some of them. Here are the Ubuntu flavours that I’m aware of: “Ubuntu Based Linux, 32 Flavours and Then Some…

What Applications Should I Use:
After you’ve completed the Linux installation, you’ll need some applications that are more or less, equivalent to your older Windows counterparts. Here’s a mini-list to consider:

Microsoft Office – Get Open Office.
IE – Get Firefox (it is part of the Linux Installation).
Outlook Express – Get Thunderbird.
WSFTP (or some other) – Get gftp.

The above four I think are the main ones, just to get you going right away, but you will want to install more applications. For a larger, more robust list, read: “Top 100 of the Best (Useful) OpenSource Applications“. Prior to installing more applications, Evolution is included with Ubuntu Linux installations and I don’t have any use for it. I’ve had to keep removing it for the last four years that I remember. In my opinion, I’d suggest removing it:

sudo apt-get --purge remove evolution*

Other things I’d suggest:

Looking for software equivalents? Try here: “Software Equivalents
Looking for a guide? Try: “The Perfect Desktop – Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon

After your installation, I’d suggest the following:

Improve the Software Repository list: “The Best Ubuntu Linux Repository List“.
Expand your Multimedia experience: “How to Play Most Restricted Media Formats in Ubuntu“.
Get cross platform fonts: “How to Install TTF and CTF Fonts in Ubuntu.

Finally, there’s been some discussion on this blog about the need for anti virus software on Linux. The “informed” consensus appears to indicate that it’s not needed. One of our readers (yochai ) wrote:

…To further exemplify the inherited process argument, lets give an example:
You open firefox as a normal (ie non-root) user. No matter what you do from here, any program or file executed by firefox will only maintain your permission set; ie if you downloaded a nasty executable it STILL couldn’t hurt your machine as it only had the rights of the program that downloaded it— namely firefox, which is being run by you, the normal user…
” You can read the full post and discussion here: Does Ubuntu Linux Really Need Antivirus Software?

Needless to say, there is a lot more freedom and flexibility than I could ever write in this post. So… If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments area below.

Above all, have fun!

Update: There’s a good post on Look2Linux called “10 reasons to convert to Linux, 5 not to” where, like me, the blogger was a Windows user. They covered my two favourite reasons:

#5 “Extremely fast compared to Windows. Linux may take longer to boot up than Windows but once you are logged in you rarely see any lag in running time (unless on really old computers). Linux doesn’t have to run applications such as a virus checker which are running all the time taking up system resources, so it can run a lot faster. Because of the lack of things running continuously it means that Linux hardly ever crashes. I say hardly ever because it has crashed on me in the past. What tends to happen though is that an application will crash and then you can force quit it, not keep pressing exit and then getting End Now windows coming up over and over again doing nothing like a certain operating system (mentioning no names, W*nd*ws, lol, I don’t totally hate Windows you’ll see that later on)


#8 “A wide range of choices. Unlike Windows where you can choose between 5 versions, one better than the previous one, there are literally thousands of Linux distro’s out there for you to choose, geared at different types of users. Most people start with the simpler and popular ones like Ubuntu, Debian, RedHat etc. and then when they get really good at it they may try investigating what else is out there. As a beginner it is always best to go for a popular one so that there is a big community to get help from if needed.

Visit the post (link above) to see all the points. Pretty good. 😉

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12 Responses to this article

zcats May 4, 2009 Reply

Linux is more secure and stable
it develops so fast and can be how YOU want it to be.

Linux desktops look and feel great…not ugly and buggy like windows. Just look at Ubuntu, Suse, Fedora…..

Plus if you want to bring new life to an old computer install linux with small footprint (DSL, geOS, Puppy..DreamLinux or Xubuntu) and you’ll be amazed!

Arunachalam August 12, 2009 Reply

I have windows xp in my system. I have ubuntu live edition. But when i am trying to boot from the cd, the system could not find the cd as bootable one

UbuntuLinuxHelp August 21, 2009 Reply


Check your CD, there might be something wrong with the media?

Billy Millsap October 13, 2009 Reply

I installed Ubuntu 9.04. After install I could not connect to the internet. I noticed that my wireless device is turned off. In Ubuntu I cannot turn it on, but in windows it turn on fine. I have a HP zd7000 laptop with a built in wireless device, also my printers are wireless. Any suggestions on enabeling the wireless device in Ubuntu?

Mostafa December 18, 2009 Reply

i was an xp user but i switched to linux-ubantu.
i tried to look for software like games ,codecs but the games on ubantu are very simple not like on windows xp games like age of empires, and those games if you were trying to swich to ubantu linux try it just for work or music playing not for gaming.

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 19, 2009 Reply


I beg to differ. Games are great. Freecol, Tremulous, Nexuiz are just a few of the games that are NOT simple. Where were you trying to look for games? Yes there are simple games, but again, there are also complex games. It depends what you want, what you’re looking for and becoming familiar with either Synaptic (and the like) or “aptitude install” (and the like).

Also, there are a group of kids down the street that have a LAN gaming party (Nexuiz) each Friday evening (and they are really good!). In my opinion, to dismiss Ubuntu as only good for music and work is just unfair, and very misinformed.

Side note: It’s named “Ubuntu” not “Ubantu”. 😉

William August 18, 2012 Reply

I love linux and would love to have it dual booted but now having great trouble going back/…. Perks of installing ubuntu: I had a blue screen long story short linux saved my pc without a questionable doubt, everything is smooth,no pause ups while watching video, and all around kinda userfreindly till it gets to installing programs I.E games ect. Quirks: Nothing will run WoW diablo2 and dosbox would take a degree in computers/enginerring to even run a single game on linux unless its the crappy games given out for free… There seems to be problems with webcam on skype not to mention I am a musician and been using cakewalk SONAR pro for years no hang ups. Linux refuses to patch these programs is what makes me resort to going to XP or a windows based program. Forget even watching netflix too sadly so much is invested into windows/microsoft that these gaming companies and software companies are actually bound to not support linux. So I am stuck I liked it while it lasted but am going to spend some money and go back to windows as much as i hate too. Support lacks you’re stuck trusting young hackers to direct you to god knows what from forums helping each other. So therefore you have to trust an entity and just not my style from past experiences. It is a good program but nothing like windows what so ever so if you’re accustomed to windows just stay.

briandc August 21, 2012 Reply

I have been using Linux only for the last couple of years now. Everything I did on Windows I can do better with Linux. In fact, I now have one PC which is dedicated to audio production, and it has a RealTime kernel!! Windows will never have that.
In other words, with Linux, you can tweak your computer to your own needs. With Windows, you can’t.
As for support, there are several very good websites. The first place I’d suggest is the one that supports the distro you installed. Ubuntu has an enormous site, perhaps so big that you don’t get help quickly. But other distros have smaller forums, where you get help quicker. linuxquestions.org is another good one. (I even made friends there! :) )

Susannah Avonside September 30, 2012 Reply

There will always be detractors of Linux, and it has to be said that it is a bit of a learning curve at first. Anyone who does even a little preliminary research will quickly discover that Linux isn’t the best as far as gaming is concerned – as yet. But that will change as several of the big gaming concerns have now decided to port to Linux as a hedge in case the upcoming Windows 8 proves to be a flop… The fact that the gaming engines are now being ported to Linux is good news even if Windows 8 works, and the fears prove unfounded – as the major work to get games running natively in Linux will already have been done, and so the greatest reason to not port a game to Linux, cost, is no longer an obstacle. This removes an important barrier to the adoption of LInux by many, and can only bode well for the future in terms of the growing number of games available that will run natively on the platform. It’s quite simple from a games producers point of view, more users=bigger market.

Some hardware setups require a slightly different installation approach, and so that machine that installed Windows flawlessly, (apart from the fundamental flaw of installing Windows anyway!) might require a different approach, and maybe a different Linux distro to the one intended. It’s always wise to do a little homework by simply Googling ‘ on ‘ There is nearly always a way. If you have a big enough HDD you could always consider a dual-boot system and enjoy the best of both worlds. I’ve never been a fan of games, so the games issue is purely academic for me, but I doe enjoy having a fast, quick booting and super secure system. I have been using Linux for four years now, and won’t be going back to Windows. I do have my gripes about Linux, but largely any problems are very soon overcome. There will always be some people who prefer the supposed ‘security’ of closed source software, but this just ensures that the likes of Microsoft and Mac continue to post obscene levels of profit…. But as Barnam said…

William August 18, 2012 Reply

Totally agreed! This thing has a plethera of flashing crap never used. You can do alot with linux but you cannot do things you’re used to on windows JUST PLAIN and simple as that. Not all of us want to have to learn what it takes to be a guru. I haven’t played a game since I had this installed. Only tcity linux version of sim city that doesn’t even fit in the screen or have option to make it fit… Tried dosbox did it exactly like the posted nothing would run on it for me. NETFLIX is a no if you’re thinking of getting ubuntu silverlight will never patch it they even have dropped the idea they were going to patch it and just installed a pre app on droids ect. Thick through thin linux is a free program but windows is worth money you get all you need to without snags of having to research and 3 day backflips just to instal a simple xp/dos program and that’s just installing it. Getting it too run is like another 3-4 days if you ever get it too run. Ubunto is amazing for volume controls on music and for work. Not a gaming OS or a multimedia/brodcasting OS by any means whatsoever. It is cool to learn controls ect. but that was cool in MIRC days about ten years ago. Now we as consumers want it now and fast and least amount of work it takes to get it the better. Ubuntu lacks that prospect.

William August 18, 2012 Reply

I had a pavillion ZD5000 and it fried mine sending it into a flash of ubuntu. Still cannot get it too boot without flashing like that. HP really doesn’t like ubuntu either. I spent 50$ on a new charger and battery for this laptop and tried ubuntu 11.04 on it bam just flashes I have videos and everything proving it messed it up. Wish you luck no one has helped me in 8 months with the right info to run stuff on any ubuntu forums. SUPPORT is lack there of.

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